What to do about lorries?
24.09.08 by Buffalo Bill
Well, I don’t want to pre-judge any of the 3 collisions that happened in the past week, for a start. It’s too easy to say, based on hearsay evidence, that one or the other party was to blame. But given that all but one of the 9 cyclists that have been killed in London so far this year have been killed by lorries1, what I said last year, after the prosecution of the driver that killed Emma Foa, still holds good.
Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a lorry, if I could possibly avoid it. Of course, with the number of lorries on the road in London, to follow this advice would mean staying off the road altogether. So I take my chances on the road.
I think it is possible to minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of conflict with a lorry. To do this, you need first of all to be aware of where they are, which means keeping an eye, or two if possible, on the road behind you.
Second, having located them on the road, you need avoid crossing their path, or potential path. This means staying behind the rear axle when they are moving, if you are behind them, and keeping an eye on them when they are behind you, to make sure that if they over-take that they are giving you enough room.
The place you definitely don’t want to be is alongside, or slightly in front of, their front wheels at any time but especially at junctions. This is because lorry drivers who have killed cyclists by left-turns (making up more than a quarter of all cyclists killed in London in the last 6 years), even if they signal, often fail to look in their left-hand mirrors to check for cyclists.
However, all this information is stuff that I have picked up in 15 years of reporting on cyclists who have been killed by collisions with lorries in London and other cities. I think I have reported directly on around 20 deaths, and at least another 2 were personally known to me. The average cyclist will trust, as Emma Foa did, in the advice to wear hi-visibility jackets and helmets, and to use the bike lanes.
Because I believe that the current policy of making marked and seperate lanes is so dangerous2, and that more could and should be done by the Mayor, I have written the following letter to him.
Mayor of London
LONDON SE1 2AA
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Dear Mr Johnson,
As Chair of the London Bicycle Messenger Association (2003 – 2005), I launched a campaign to reduce the threat from HGV/LGV/lorries to London’s cycle couriers and cyclists. All 8 of the London bicycle messengers known to have died whilst working were killed by collisions with lorries. As I am sure you are aware, 2 London cyclists were killed as the result of collisions with lorries in the last week, and another was seriously injured. Unofficial figures collected by the London Cycling Campaign suggest that 10 cyclists have died so far this year in London as the result of collisions with lorries.
As editor of Moving Target, a magazine and web-site for cycle couriers and other urban cyclists, it has been my unfortunate duty to report on a number of these deaths, and in some cases meet the families and friends that were left behind. It is my view that not only are these deaths tragic, but that they are wholly avoidable.
As you may or may not be aware, a London Road Safety Unit study of London cyclist fatalities 1999 – 2002 concluded that of the 49 collisions with lorries, more than half were the result of a left turn by the lorry.
I therefore urge you to re-examine the basis of the London Cycle Network, because it is my belief that, by painting pictures of bicycles and white lines up the left-hand side of the road, Transport for London is encouraging cyclists to believe that the left-hand side of the road is where they belong, and that they will be safe there. In view of the results of the study mentioned above, this is most definitely not the case.
Also, given that to the left and front of lorry is very difficult location for a driver to see into, even with the new ‘blind-spot’ mirror, the provision of Advanced Stop Lines, with feeder lanes from the left, at junctions seems to me to be very dangerous practice. I wonder if you knew that at two spots where cyclists were recently killed by a left-turning lorries, Upper Thames Street junction with Queen Street Place, and Camley Street junction with Goods Way, there are two such ASLs, both with feeder lanes from the left. Surely this is something that needs looking at again?
I would also urge you to contact the Department for Transport and demand that they hasten the implementation of the European legislation that will make the fitting of ‘blind-spot’ mirrors compulsory for lorries. It seems that there are concerns that the DfT is dragging its feet, and that necessary arrangements have not yet been made.
As Mayor of London, you will no doubt be aware that there will be a massive amount of construction, with the associated huge increase in lorry traffic, taking place as part of the London Olympics project. Perhaps you can bring some pressure to bear on the operators with respect to this hazard, and encourage them to do more to eliminate it.
Editor, Moving Target
You can download a PDF or doc without my name on it, print and send to Boris yourselves. I strongly urge you to do so. If enough people write in, who knows what might happen? I also also urge all of my readers to download the LCC letter regarding ‘blind-spot’ mirrors, print it and send that as well.
1 Unofficial figures collected by Charlie Lloyd at the London Cycling Campaign.
2 See this article in the Guardian for more.